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Israeli fire fighters extinguish vehicles destroyed by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at a gas station in the city of Ashdod in southern Israel Friday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Israel And Hamas Keep Up Attacks, Ignoring Calls For Peace

Jul 11, 2014

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Reported by

Bill Chappell

The exchange of hundreds of air strikes and rockets between Israel's military and militant group Hamas continued Friday. In Israel, a rocket set a gas station on fire; in Gaza, the health ministry says 100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 injured in the military strikes that began this week.

Hamas announced today that it is targeting Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel's main international airport near Tel Aviv. The group warned airlines not to fly there, saying that it "will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base," according to Jerusalem Post.

"Since Israel launched its offensive four days ago it has attacked at least 1,100 sites in Gaza, half of them rocket launchers, the army says," NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem. "Today, rockets from Gaza were intercepted over Tel Aviv, and air raid sirens sounded in the northern city of Haifa for the first time."

"As the numbers of dead and injured here in Gaza rise, so are international calls to stop the fighting," NPR's Emily Harris reports from Gaza. "President Obama offered U.S. assistance to negotiate an end to current hostilities and perhaps restore the ceasefire Hamas and Israel agreed to after eight days of fighting in 2012. Yesterday, both sides said they are not considering a ceasefire now."

Some of the rockets that were fired at Israel today came from Lebanon.

The AP reports:

"The Lebanese military said three rockets were fired toward Israel around 6 a.m., and the Israelis retaliated by firing about 25 artillery shells on the area.
"Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said that one of those suspected of firing the rockets was wounded and rushed to a hospital. The Lebanese military said troops found two rocket launchers and dismantled them."

While the rockets have disrupted life in Israel with air raid sirens and damage, many have missed targets or been intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system. One Israeli civilian and an Israeli soldier have been seriously wounded, while other injuries have also been reported.

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, Israel's military credits the Iron Dome not only with saving people from rocket strikes - but also with moderating public outrage in Israel.

The thinking is that "if Israelis were being killed in large numbers, people would push for an even more aggressive response," Ari says, citing a military spokesman in a story for today's Morning Edition.

A more aggressive response could include a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip - something the military says it is preparing for as a possibility. The Israeli army has called up 30,000 reservists, Daniel Estrin reports, adding, "The army says three infantry brigades are already stationed on the border with Gaza and more are on the way."

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Israeli fire fighters extinguish vehicles destroyed by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at a gas station in the city of Ashdod in southern Israel Friday. (AFP/Getty Images)

'How To Survive The Bulls' Co-Author Gets Gored

Jul 11, 2014 (Morning Edition) — On Wednesday, Bill Hillmann, one of the authors of Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, was reportedly gored in the leg. His injuries were not life threatening.

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Israeli fire fighters extinguish vehicles destroyed by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, at a gas station in the city of Ashdod in southern Israel Friday. (AFP/Getty Images)

New York City Considers Licensing Costumed Peformers

Jul 11, 2014 (Morning Edition) — Lawmakers say too many people dress like Superman or other characters to pose for pictures with tourists, and then they demand money.

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Meat is displayed in a case at a grocery store in Miami. The index of retail prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs was up 7.7 percent from a year ago -- more than triple the overall inflation rate. (Getty Images)

Economists Say Inflation Is Tame; Consumers Aren't Buying It

Jul 11, 2014

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Economists regularly issue reports calling inflation tame or mild, or some other word that suggests consumers shouldn't be feeling much pain.

One example: "Inflation has been tame and this is providing households with some relief" from economic stress, according to an assessment done this week by PNC Financial Services.

But if you happen to be buying gasoline or groceries, you may not be feeling relieved — at all.

"It's kind of hard to even buy milk and bread," said Kimberly Acevedo, a bank teller who was shopping at a Best Market in Harlem. To search for lower prices, "you could find yourself going to four supermarkets ... one for meat, one for fresh fruit, and one for other things."

The gap between what economists say and what you feel at the register can seem so wide. Here's why:

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measures inflation by studying the retail price of thousands of goods, compiling the data into the consumer price index. For the past year, the CPI is up 2.1 percent.

"That is below the historical average," BLS economist Jonathan Church said. "Since 1913, the CPI has increased at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent."

So if you were to look only at the CPI, then you would conclude that inflation is low and consumers should be feeling pretty good at the checkout.

But the government index covers a very broad array of goods, including globally produced items such as televisions, phones and personal computers, which have seen big price declines in recent years.

So how often do you buy those big-ticket goods? Probably not as often as you put gas in the car or pick up meat or fruit at the grocery store. And those food and fuel prices are high this summer — far higher than the 2.1 percent inflation rate that the CPI shows.

And the price increases are many times greater than the 2-percent average wage hikes that workers have gotten in the past year.

For example, in May — the most recent month studied — the index of retail prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs was up 7.7 percent from a year ago. Some specific food prices really shot up: eggs, oranges and beef all saw prices jump by double-digit percentages.

And the U.S. Energy Information Administration says the price of an average gallon of gas is $3.68, compared with $3.50 a year ago, an increase of 5.1 percent.

The reasons for these food and fuel price increases are both domestic and global.

On the home front, the weather has been the key problem for grocery prices. Cattlemen in Southwestern and Western states have suffered heavy livestock and grazing losses after three years of extreme drought conditions. The USDA says the U.S. cattle herd had slumped to the lowest point since 1951.

Because of the continuing drought, "cattle prices are at record levels that could result in declining profit margins for cattle feeders by summer's end. Consumers face record or near-record retail beef prices at the meat counter," the USDA concluded.

That's not likely to change any time soon; the USDA downgraded its projections for beef production for 2014 by 155 million pounds. Experts generally say that even if the drought were to end today, it would take ranchers at least two years to rebuild cattle herds to more normal levels.

And then there is a deadly pig virus that has been adding to meat-counter troubles. Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDv, has killed more than 7 million piglets in the past year. And that, in turn, has sent pork prices up by nearly 13 percent at grocery stores, according to the USDA.

Meanwhile, global events have been having an impact on gasoline prices. Political turmoil and violence in the Middle East pushed up oil prices this past spring. In recent days, crude oil has been hovering around $108 a barrel, up from about $100 a year ago.

This week, the price of gasoline has eased by a few pennies a gallon in most places but it remains elevated compared with last year.

This summer's higher food and fuel prices are being watched by retailers hoping for stronger sales as students prepare for the new school year. Merchants fear their customers will be feeling tight-fisted when they come to buy shoes and notebooks.

"Consumer confidence is likely to sour in July as food and pump price increases start entering the American consumer psyche; this is bad news for retailers that were hoping for a very strong back-to-school retail sales season," Chris Christopher, a consumer economist for IHS Global Insight, wrote in an assessment.

New sales assessments from many retailers suggest that the higher prices for food and fuel already have been having a big impact on lower-income shoppers. For example, on Thursday, Family Dollar Stores said its same-store sales were down 1.8 percent this spring.

"Our results continue to reflect the economic challenges facing our core customer and an intense competitive environment," CEO Howard Levine said in a statement.

NPR intern Louis Enriquez-Sarano contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR
Meat is displayed in a case at a grocery store in Miami. The index of retail prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs was up 7.7 percent from a year ago -- more than triple the overall inflation rate. (Getty Images)

Gaza Residents Deal With Fourth Night Of Israeli Air Strikes

Jul 11, 2014 (Morning Edition) — Steve Inskeep talks to Palestinian-American business consultant and political commentator Sami Abdel-Shafi about living in Gaza while under attack from Israel.

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